Pulitzer Center grantees were recognized in the Society of Environmental Journalists’ (SEJ) 21st Annual Awards for Reporting on the Environment. The awards honor the best environmental stories released from February 1, 2021, through January 31, 2022, and the best books on environmental topics published in 2021.
According to its website, the SEJ contest is the world's largest and most comprehensive environmental journalism competition. This year, the judges chose from 485 entries in 10 categories. The first-place winners will vie for the Nina Mason Pulliam Award and a $10,000 cash prize. That winner will be announced in October.
The Pulitzer Center-supported project The Greenland Connection won first place in the category “Outstanding Explanatory Reporting, Large.” For their winning project, Tony Bartelme and Lauren Petracca explained how the effects of climate change in Greenland are connected to the coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina, despite a 3,000-mile distance. The project, published in The Post and Courier, included stark visuals; “Climate Elvis” anecdotes; and a comic book, Flood Woman vs. Climate Doom.
SEJ judges commended The Greenland Connection as “beautifully written with stunning images” and “an absolute delight to read and view.” The Greenland Connection also claimed first-place honors in the international Covering Climate Now journalism contest in June.
Rainforest Investigations Fellow Jessica Brice, along with guest contributor Michael Smith, won a second-place award in the “Outstanding Feature Story, Large” category for their report "The Amazon Is Fast Approaching a Point of No Return" for Bloomberg Businessweek. Their story dives into the ongoing conflict between developers and conservationists in the Brazilian Amazon to discover the root causes of deforestation. Their nuanced overview of the issue pulls out the factors leading farmers and ranchers to illegally grab protected land, and the politics at play that allows it.
"Jessica Brice and Michael Smith take readers to the frontlines of one of the most prominent environmental stories of our lifetimes—the destruction of the Amazon rainforest,” the judges’ comments said. “Their deeply reported account explains history and present day politics through the lens of people whose voices are rarely heard in U.S. media. The result is a new understanding of the complexity, humanity and scope of the problem."
Rainforest Destruction: The Supply Chains to U.S. Consumers, a reporting project that involved the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network and three other teams, received an honorable mention for the contest’s Kevin Carmody Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting, Large. Journalists at The New York Times, NBC News, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism also contributed.
The Pulitzer Center’s RIN team included Environment Investigations Editor Gustavo Faleiros, RIN Editorial Coordinator Jelter Meers, Executive Editor Marina Walker Guevara, and RIN Data Editor Kuek Ser Kuang Keng.
The teams “revealed how everyday consumption is driving rainforest destruction in Brazil, the Philippines, Indonesia and Ecuador,” according to the awards announcement.
The judges noted the project’s influence on a major legal case in Brazil, resulting in a judicial order protecting the region, and a proposed viscose-rayon industry regulation in the European Union. Published by The New York Times and NBC, the series features investigations about leather and a green-washed alternative, electric cars, and oil consumption.
Grantee Justin Cook received an honorable mention in the “Outstanding Feature Story, Small” category for his report "Tide and Time: Sea Level Rise and Solastalgia on North Carolina's Outer Banks" for Coastal Review Online. His story examines the effects of coastal erosion on the ancestral land of the Outer Banks and the community that holds it dear. Through personal stories and photographs, Cook paints a picture of the memories that wash away with the sea.
"What can we not bear to lose? In an expansive multimedia production, Justin Cook illustrates the consequences of the hungry tides advancing across the Outer Banks, eroding history and community," said the judges’ comments.
The judges also noted Cook’s expanded feature “Outer Banks Ties Inform Photojournalist’s Climate Reporting,” which explains his own roots in North Carolina and his grandfather’s words that motivate him to keep imagining a better climate future.